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Transmeta wins Toshiba: nears a full Tablet PC set?

Intel loyalist list looking decidedly thin...

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Transmeta has reeled in its latest big fish - Toshiba, this time, giving it virtually a full house of the big Japanese companies. Toshiba will shortly be shipping ultralight Libretto models in Japan based on Transmeta's Crusoe, and with a claimed battery life of up to 14 hours.

Which reminds us. Wasn't it just last August a mouthy Toshiba UK operative* was telling a certain other newswire that Crusoe's battery technology didn't shape up? Yup:

'"However, Steve Crawley, Toshiba UK's product marketing manager, said that the company had no current plans to introduce Crusoe into future Toshiba products... Realistically, in sub-notebooks it gives a 30 to 40 per cent increase in battery life," he said. He added that Toshiba currently has prototypes of ultra-light notebooks with eight hour battery life using Intel rather than Transmeta chips. "This can be done with a standard Intel box," he said.'

'Tis a grand business, the FUD business, but it's best for subs to check with Head Office before fudding. What's worth noting about the Tosh-TMTA deal, of course, is that it's for the Libretto, not for Toshiba's 'corporate roadwarrior' full spec portables. That's a market Transmeta would no doubt dearly love to get into, but it's one where the leaders like IBM, Toshiba and Compaq (in the case of cheap corporate roadwarriors) see a virtue in sticking close to Intel.

So the Tosh deal is a nice one, but not a huge victory. However, there's something else worth noting too. If you check back to the original list of OEMs that would be doing Microsoft's Tablet PC, you see it consists of Acer, Fujitsu, Sony, Compaq and Toshiba. All of these bar Compaq are now official Transmeta customers, and Transmeta is one of two chip partners (the other one being a major manufacturer of large aircon units) for the Tablet project.

Even Compaq, despite strong Intel noises coming out of the US, has/had some kind of semi-skunkworks Crusoe project going in the Far East. But even without Compaq on the team for Transmeta Tablets, there's a clear pattern to the kind of segmentation the other companies are using, and if this continues it'll mean they'll tend to jump Transmeta rather than Intel when they finalise their Tablet designs.

They use Transmeta - of course - for ultralight and appliance-type devices, and these are among the intended characteristics of the Tablet PC. Bill Gates, it has been suggested to us, has been heard noticing that PCs seem to be rather loud these days, and that they really should be silent. Which might be a headache for Fanzilla, and music to the ears of TMTA.

One more observation about positioning. As we noted when Microsoft did its big announcement, the company envisages the Tablet as being a complete PC replacement, i.e. it is the corporate roadwarrior machine. Another headache for Fanzilla, if the situation can't be retrieved. ®

* Steve, who seems an awfully good sport, has mailed us denying mouthiness, and pointing out that he was merely distinguishing between Libretto-style devices, which can benefit from Crusoe-type technology, and big screen, big disk, DVD notebooks where processor power consumption is comparatively less important. We're happy to set the record straight, and to retract all charges of mouthiness.

Related stories:
MS XP-Tablet combo cuts Intel out of PC standards biz
Intel putting squeeze on potential customers - Transmeta boss
Intel's blades slice Transmeta's server party

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